In a highly anticipated move, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley released a video Tuesday to announce his run for Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s seat.
The 37-year-old Missouri attorney general is just 10 months into his first year holding elected office but has been in contact with an all-star roster of GOP officials and officeholders about challenging McCaskill.
“This isn’t something we were planning to do,” Hawley said in his announcement. “But we believe we have to do all we can to win a better future for our country.”
McCaskill knows she faces a tough road to re-election in a state with just one Democratic statewide officeholder, Auditor Nicole Galloway.
President Donald Trump cruised past Hillary Clinton in the state last November by 19 points. And Hawley collected around 13,000 more votes than the president in his 17-point win for the AG seat.
“Sen. McCaskill, she’s been in D.C. forever,” Hawley said. He claimed the two-term incumbent has neglected the needs of farmers and working families and that her record on Supreme Court nominations doesn’t reflect Missourian values.
“She doesn’t represent us.”
In his 2016 campaign for the AG seat, in a video entitled “Ladders,” Hawley painted himself as a political outsider bent on holding accountable career politicians jumping from one post to the next.
“Jefferson City is full of career politicians just climbing the ladder, using one office to get another,” he said.
Republicans have acknowledged he will be vulnerable to attacks of hypocrisy because of his recent inauguration.
Indeed, the Missouri Democratic Party ran a digital ad in July accusing him of using his new attorney general title as a springboard to the Senate.
And McCaskill’s campaign repeated that same line of criticism in a statement Tuesday.
“Since taking office in January, Josh Hawley has proven to be the worst type of politician,” the statement said. “He broke his promise not to climb the political ladder.
“We applaud Josh for coming clean about his intention to run and look forward to contrasting his record of broken promises with Claire’s record of listening to Missourians and breaking through gridlock to get things done for them.”
Hawley could benefit from the blessings he has received from key voices in the GOP, including Vice President Mike Pence, former Republican Sen. Jack C. Danforth of Missouri, and Republican donor Sam Fox.
Pence called Hawley in July to encourage him to challenge McCaskill.
And in June, Fox wrote to fellow donors urging them not to donate to other potential Senate candidates until Hawley made his decision clear.
Hawley reached out to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon last week to secure his support, the Kansas City Star reported.
The big-spending Club for Growth PAC was quick to endorse Hawley Tuesday, saying in a statement he was “an ideal candidate who possesses conservative credentials and a commitment to pro-market economic principles few can match.
“Unlike out-of-touch liberal Claire McCaskill, Missourians will be able to count on Josh to be a strong voice for fiscal sanity. Josh also isn’t afraid to tackle the cronyism that plagues Claire McCaskill and the rest of the Washington swamp.”